A Lucky Ant helps Front St. businesses

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER

Three days after Superstorm Sandy tore through the South Street Seaport shattering small businesses that had taken years to build, Amanda Byron Zink, the owner of The Salty Paw, a dog grooming and day care store at 38 Peck Slip, found a flyer taped to her door from a website called “Lucky Ant.”

Lucky Ant, just a little more than a year old, helps businesses like The Salty Paw raise money through crowd funding. People go to the Lucky Ant website to purchase gift certificates for goods and services at a business they want to support, thereby giving it a way to raise cash when it’s needed and repay the customer at a future time.

Zink signed up for a 25-day fundraising campaign in December and January that netted $9,200.

Along with eight other South Street Seaport businesses, Zink had created an organization called “United Front on Historic Front Street” to offer mutual support in weathering the Sandy crisis. When her colleagues heard about Lucky Ant, they thought it was a good idea.

“We asked Lucky Ant to do a street project with many businesses, like Red Hook was trying to do,” said Zink. “We also started a Facebook page and continue to try to keep our area of Downtown on everyone’s radars since we are all still closed or hurting and need funds, aid and grants to help get open.”

The Front St. businesses don’t expect to be able to reopen until the spring, at the earliest.

Lucky Ant has created website pages for the United Front on Historic Front Street group allowing donors to give to the group as a whole, with the money to be divided equally between the nine businesses, or to any individual business.

The fundraising campaign was officially launched on Monday, Jan. 21 and will run for 23 days.

Nate Echeverria, one of the founders of Lucky Ant and a co-owner, said that it’s important to set deadlines for a fundraising campaign. “People procrastinate,” he said. “A large amount of money comes in during the last few days.”

Right now, Lucky Ant is handling fundraising projects for 17 businesses. In addition to the nine businesses in the South Street Seaport, three in the East Village and one in Red Hook have Sandy-related damage. Ordinarily, at the end of each project, Lucky Ant charges 15 percent of the money raised as a commission. It is handling the Sandy funding for a 10 percent commission, which Echeverria said is “at cost.”

Lucky Ant creates a website page for each business it represents along with a video about that business. It also processes gift certificate purchases and donations as they come in.

Echeverria, who has a masters in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania, said he became interested in small business development after spending some time in Africa working with micro financing programs.

Lucky Ant is the only crowdfunding website that focuses on mom-and-pop businesses, he said. “Small businesses have a hard time raising capital,” he remarked. “Banks don’t want to look at them unless they want to borrow at least $50,000. But many times they only need $15,000 or less.”

Lucky Ant has handled crowdfunding for businesses seeking to raise anywhere from $2,000 to $30,000.

The nine businesses that are participating in the Lucky Ant crowdfunding effort are Bin 220, Keg 229, Bobby Buka Dermatology, Da Claudio (formerly Barbarini), Il Brigante, Jack’s Coffee, Nelson Blue, Stella Manhattan Bistro and The Salty Paw.

The Lucky Ant website for the United Front on Historic Front Street group is at www.luckyant.com/project/detail?project=672.

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